April 15, 2010
AEROGARD - HISTORICAL CONTEXT
This is a film of some historical interest and is certainly illustrative of Soviet preparation for war in the mid 1930’s.
In the 1930’s Japan effectively annexed Manchuria and occupied the northern sections of China with army troops who acted independently of the paralyzed government in Tokyo. The occupation of Manchuria by Japan brought the Japanese Army to the Russian border across a vast stretch of the territory.
E.O. Reischauer notes, “In 1937 all Japanese army planning was predicated on the assumption that the Soviet Union was Japan’s only serious enemy in the Far East. By 1935 (a the time of Aerogard’s production – my comment)Russia had more troops in its Far Eastern provinces (about 240,000) than Japan had in Manchuria (about 160,000) as well as more planes and greater mechanized strength.”
During this period active conflict took place between Japanese and Russian forces in which the Japanese were badly defeated. Rather than face a difficult adversary the Japanese Army focused its attentions on a far easier and weaker target, that of central and southern China.
This film contains many classic elements found in Russian Patriotic Cinema during the Stalin Pre-War era. These include (1) a fearful populace in need of strong leadership, (2) active traitors conspiring with the enemy against the Russian people, (3) a depiction of the enemy, in this case the Japanese, as inferior and perhaps sub human. (Note that the protagonist of the film kills and entire Japanese patrol with a single pistol) (4) the characterizing of the Russian people as a happy mix of varying ethnic types with no discrimination or bias. To this list we may add the fiction of a “populist uprising” to defeat the enemy when the traitors are revealed and destroyed, and the depiction of the Russian Military as benign and supportive of the people.
For anyone interested in Russian movie history this is a must see and for those interested in the little known conflict between the Russians and the Japanese in the mid 1930’s this film is highly recommended.